Friday, January 2, 2015

Is a printed movie guide too much anymore?

Ever since the early 2000s, one by one the video/movie/DVD review guides have been dropping off like flies. The DVD and Video Guide by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter saw its last printing for the 2007 calendar year. Halliwell's and Time Out have since both bowed out of a printed movie guide. And 2014 saw the last of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide being published (the 2015 edition).

The reason for the demise of the printed movie guide is simply the internet. With laptops, tablets and smartphones having easy access to sites like IMDB and any of the ever increasing multitude of blogs where everybody and their brother reviews movies, information on any movie is a click away without having to thumb through a guide, and this information is essentially free, if you don't mind being bombarded with ads.

But is it just the availability of movie reviews online that has doomed the movie review guide or perhaps something else? That something else being how we rent and watch movies.

The movie review guides' heyday was also the day of the video rental store when we would consult our trusty books about the movies available on the shelves to be rented. Those brick and mortar stores with very few exceptions are gone now and renting movies has moved online in the form of streaming movies and out of red vending machines where we shop for groceries or pull into a drive-thru for a burger and a movie rental.

The death of the printed movie review guide is probably not so much the availability of movie review sites online as it is the availability of movies online. Now you can read reviews right from the sites where you get your movies. If you're going to be using your internet connection to get the movie in the first place, it would seem a lot more convenient to also read movie reviews the same way rather than having to pull out a separate guide for your movie reviews.

And one thing the movie reviews online offer that Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin and other movie critics did not in their movie review guides, just that. Their movie review guides offered opinions from a limited or even single source where online you can get reviews on the very site you get your movies and other sites from a variety of people from everyday folk like your friends and family to even professionally written reviews, the type you'd expect to find in a newspaper.

Is the printed movie review guide dead? Well, not according to VideoHound who still publishes their Movie Retriever video guide. But then if you've read their reviews I would have to say yes.

At least a general full-coverage guide is becoming more improbable year by year. VideoHound's guide alone could be used to deflect bullets it is so thick, yet the reviews near require using a magnifying glass to read them. In the 90s a general coverage movie review guide was reasonable in its size, but 20 years of movies since, and not to mention even more older movies seeing the light of day on DVD and Blu-ray and trying to cover all movies available on some form of media for rent or purchase becomes unwieldy.

Now a genre specific movie guide, that might be a different story. Of course that type of guide is more aimed at a movie fan than the general viewer. Zombie movies, horror movies, sci-fi movies, euro-westerns, post-apocalyptic movies are just a sampling of specific guides to these genres and more being currently published. Leonard Maltin even split up his guide into a Classic Movie Guide and a modern movies guide. In retrospect that was a smart decision as even if he has stopped publishing his yearly guide his classic movies guide is not going to go out of date.

Why even bother with a printed movie guide?

Well, for the same reason that many people bother with any printed book, because sometimes you just want to thumb through a book rather than look it up online. A movie guide can be thumbed through to reveal new treasures. Food for thought if you're a reviewer, movies you haven't seen and would not have thought of looking up online if you're a watcher. Now that's where the internet has become unwieldy, is the inability to thumb through IMDB or another site and casually come across a movie that might interest you. It only takes a few minutes with a book what would take hours or days online.

Toxic Fletch

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